‘Harry went to Hawera to see Concie. Harry is not tall as we thought, he is very good looking with nice gentlemanly manners, speaks well, he is musical, belongs to the Bathurst Brass band. I unpacked my pictures on Friday for him to see & to choose one of yours.’ Emily Harris is in New Plymouth writing to her sister Frances in Nelson 23 February 1890. Her exhibitions of family paintings in Taranaki (one in New Plymouth, the other in Stratford) have enjoyed moderate success. But of greater interest right now is Emily’s thumbnail of her nephew, Alfred Henry (Harry) Moore, also in Taranaki to visit his family.
His aunties have not seen Harry for a long time, perhaps not since 1883 when he appears to have left New Zealand at age 19 to seek his fortune in Australia. Harry, eldest child of Emily’s sister Catherine and her husband Alfred William Moore, has flown the nest for good. His sisters Constance (Concie), Frances (Fanny), Ruth and Grace moved mostly in Taranaki environs. One brother, Reginald, disappeared from view; two others, Hugh and Frank were Taranaki- and Manawatu-based respectively. Harry’s return, now 26 and working for the railways in Bathurst, NSW, is an important event for the Moores and Harrises. Emily thinks Harry should visit his grandfather Edwin Harris and his aunts Frances and Ellen in Nelson. Her letter to Frances continues:
I want Harry to return by way of Nelson or rather he would very much like to see you all but the difficulty is about the steamers at present. Scarcely any go direct to Nelson but go on to Wellington. I have got my things partly packed in case one leaves for Nelson. I do not want to go to Wellington on account of the long voyage & mostly for fear of having to tranship my numerous cases.
Harry was obliged to go to Wellington by train as there was no steamer to Nelson & he was afraid of missing his passage to Melbourne. I was very ill going to Wellington. A long voyage & bad weather. Harry came on board to meet me, he was very kind & useful.
Harry’s usefulness to his aunts and sisters, and his status as a person of independent means, is evident in another family letter, undated but probably from the early 1890s. Ellen Harris is writing to her niece Constance Moore:
Thanks for letter which we were very pleased to receive. We are very busy seeing about the exhibition; We have taken one of the kirks which is a very large place. We have had lots of lovely things promised already & when it is all done it can’t fail to look very attractive, but there is a tremendous lot of work. […] I am so glad Ruth is coming & I wish Fannie could come too – tell her to write to Harry at once & ask him to pay her passage. I’m sure he might, & with her nice blue serge & white dresses she will always look nice.
Harry Moore married Emma Florence Willis in Sydney in 1895. Their first daughter was born in Sydney; Her five sisters were born in Lismore, NSW, where Harry was transferred in 1897, still working for the railways. Each of Harry’s daughters carries the name of a Moore sister or Harris aunt: Augusta Dorothy (1896-1979); Ada Frances (1898), who married Ernest Arthur Marsh; Constance Kathleen (1901), who married Victor H Griffin; Grace Birdsell (1909), who married Harold William Wenban; Emily May (Bonnie) (1911), who married Edward Arnold Tregeagle, Marjorie Ruth (1918), who married Frank Ainsworth and later Richard Giltinan.
All six daughters were living in NSW when Harry Moore died at 5 Boronia St, Dee Why, Sydney, in 1942. Five grandchildren, Glen, Constance D, Brian, Graeme and Kaye, were named in a newspaper notice. Harry’s descendants may well have moved on from their mid-20th century NSW locus. Did they take with them the paintings Harry was given by his Harris aunts Emily and Frances on that long-ago day in 1890 when Emily opened her cases and asked him to choose what he would take home to Bathurst?
Lead writer: Michele Leggott
Research support: Makyla Curtis, Betty Davis